Robin Dutt has had quite a peculiar adventure in the world of football over the years. Having spent 16 years playing the game but never making it beyond the fifth tier of German football, the son of a German mother and Indian Bengali father began a jump into football management as a player-coach at the age of 30 with TSG Leonberg before retiring from playing only four years later.
With football management the native of Cologne enjoyed more success than he did as a player, particularly with Stuttgarter Kickers where he had relatively good results with a young team on a limited budget. Continued success and greater recognition arrived when Dutt began coaching with SC Freiburg, who he guided to the top flight and kept them there in his last two seasons in charge. His good work was recognized on a larger scale by some of the bigger clubs in the country but he never quite cut it at a higher level, with failures at Bayer Leverkusen (14-8-15) and Werder Bremen (11-13-21) alongside a short, and perhaps bizarre, stint as the sporting director of DFB sticking out like a sore thumb over all his solid early work.
After those disappointments, it was clear that Dutt wasn’t best suited for higher level football management and so he began a search for a new way he could stay in the game and influence club football in Germany. The end result saw him find a role as a sporting director at VfB Stuttgart in January 2015, at a time when the club was enjoying its lowest point in years and struggling to escape a relegation fight at the bottom end of the league.
The arrival of Dutt, now 51, along with the installment of the experienced Huub Stevens as manager, proved to be pivotal as Stuttgart managed to stay up at the end of the 2014-15 season but, perhaps more importantly, it’s brought about a change of transfer policy. Dutt has so far managed to bring in the likes of Serey Die, Emiliano Insúa, Mitchell Langerak, Toni Šunjić, Kevin Großkreutz , and Artem Kravets, most of which are experienced international-level players, for low fees.
It’s a step up to where Stuttgart were before he came into the club with a high amount of the signings made under his predecessor Fredi Bobic resulting in gambles that backfired completely and the sight of players brought in already departed from the club since the Slovenian’s sacking in late 2014. Dutt hasn’t been perfect as far as transfer business goes though, with many believing that the likes of Sven Ulreich, Antonio Rudiger, and Joshua Kimmich leaving for smaller fees than most would have expected, but his positives outweigh his negatives up until now.
Dutt, who started out in the lower leagues as both player and manager, is also heavily responsible for the appointments of youth team coaches Alexander Zorniger and Jurgen Kramny as first team managers, as the VfB Sporting Director opted to go with unfamiliar, unproven faces rather than experienced trainers. Although things didn’t quite work out for the Zorniger, they certainly have been doing so far for the Kramny, who has only lost two of his nine games in charge to date, both losses at the hands of Borussia Dortmund.
It’s turning out to be a slow climb back up to the top half of the table and it may be another year or two before Stuttgart can once again become a side that can contend for the European positions, but they’ve shown marked improvement on and off the pitch in the last 12 months with results clearly being indicative of that. Robin Dutt has played no small part in that, so credit must be given where it’s due, even if there is still plenty of work to be done to complete the turnaround of this famous club.
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